Nutrition and drinks for infants

It is essential that oral health is supported by good nutrition and that both parents and carers and nursery and school staff have the information and resources to establish healthy eating and good nutrition from as early an age as possible. For information on breast and formula feeding and weaning see the NHS Health Scotland resources, First Teeth, Healthy Teeth, Off to a Good Start  and Fun First Foods. Health practitioners and early years professionals have the responsibility of explaining these key messages to parents and carers.

Key nutritional messages which promote oral health include:

  • Emphasising healthy snacks and drinks and keeping food and drinks containing sugar to a minimum and only at meal times.
  • Raising awareness of hidden sugars in foods and drinks – for example, sugar appears in food and drink under many different names – sucrose, glucose, dextrose, maltose, honey and syrup. The earlier it appears on the list of ingredients, the more of it there is in the food.
  • Introduce cup feeding at six months – free-flow cups are distributed free of charge by the Childsmile programme. Non-spill (valve) cups are not recommended as the sucking motion can lead to tooth decay and speech problems.
  • After the age of six months, the best drinks for children are water or breast/formula milk.
  • Fruit juices contain naturally present sugars which can cause tooth decay so these should be given in small amounts. They should be unsweetened and diluted (one part juice to one part water) and only given at meal times.
  • Sugary, fizzy drinks or squashes (including sugar-free varieties) should be avoided or offered at meal times only. They should never be put in a baby feeding bottle and especially not at bedtime, as this can cause nursing bottle decay.
  • Give your child healthy, sugar free snacks between meals to prevent tooth decay, e.g. bite sized peices of fresh fruit: apple, pear, satsuma, orange, banana, kiwi, melon or strawberries.

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